An ANZAC Lesson: The Real Enemy Is Always Behind You

My grandfather Fred was born in West Auckland, on the land that is now McLeod Park, named after his father Harry. Fred saw action in North Africa and Italy with the 2nd New Zealand Division and the British Eighth Army. He survived the war, returned to New Zealand, and raised a family. This essay is about one of the lessons he taught me.

He had, like tens of thousands of other Kiwi men, volunteered to fight in World War Two. Having volunteered, and then having experienced war and decided that it was a complete waste of time and something best avoided, he wanted to teach his offspring some lessons to help them avoid ending up fighting overseas.

He only ever spoke of combat, or of the general deprivations of war, to his wife, but he did tell us grandchildren a lot of stories about the lessons he had learned from his war experience. These generally involved insights about psychology, whether general or specific to the various nationalities he had encountered, or relating to military life and the nature of organisations.

One of his favourite stories related an experience that occurred shortly after the German surrender in May 1945. He was on the back of a troop transport truck with the other members of his company, when they encountered a column of German prisoners of war being marched along the road in the other direction. Upon seeing this, the officer in command of the New Zealand troops ordered the company to not acknowledge the presence of the German troops – after all, the war was not technically over yet.

But when the two forces met, the Kiwi troops spontaneously broke into a cheer, and waved to the Germans, who waved back with similar sentiments. It didn’t matter that they had been ordered not to do this, for the war was over, and that meant that the inhumanities of war no longer needed to be inflicted upon each other. Open fraternisation was, of course, not possible, but it was clear that no genuine illwill existed at the level of the average soldier.

It took a while to fully appreciate the import of this story. The first lesson was the magnitude of the relief that the soldiers must have felt upon understanding that the war was over. The realisation that all the killing and dying had ended would have been a joy that is barely comprehensible to someone who has never experienced combat. This joy would have been powerful enough to override any remaining sense of obligation to follow orders.

I spoke with him about this story once, after it had occurred to me that this feeling of goodwill towards the German soldiers was stronger than any goodwill he felt towards his own leaders, who were, after all, on his side. At this point he gave me a lesson, with an admonition to never forget: the real enemy is always behind you.

The apparent truth is that your enemy is the guy on the other side of the battlefield shooting at you. The real truth is that your enemy is the guy behind you, the one who coerced you into fighting in the first place. Never mind the fact that the guy behind you speaks your language – you still have more in common with the working-class man on the other side of the battlefield than you do with your own commanders.

This truth was illustrated by another, darker story, that took place in Italy. Fred’s company had taken a number of German soldiers prisoner during the battle of Monte Cassino. In the heat of the moment, one of the younger German soldiers broke down in tears, apparently under the conviction that he was about to be shot dead.

Fred offered the young German a cigarette, and instead spoke to him. Why would we shoot you in cold blood? he asked. Do you think we are monsters? The German replied that he had been told that the British were, indeed, monsters, whose insatiable greed had led them to try and take over the entire world and to subjugate it and all its peoples. It was in trying to stop this greed that the Germans had been drawn into the war.

Fred realised, of course, that he had been told exactly the same stories about the Germans. Moreover, the men who had been the ones to tell those stories had not themselves been subjected to the horrors of combat. The New Zealand politicians who had organised the war effort were safely back at home, fat and happy, as were the newspaper men. The sense of betrayal he felt upon realising this inspired the lessons he had to teach me.

Never, ever trust the politician or the newspaper who tells you how evil and terrible some men overseas are. It’s all but guaranteed that the politician and the newspaper are lying to trick you into sacrificing yourself for the commercial interests of their sponsors. World War Two was a banker’s war, Fred taught me, and the soldiers who fought in it were coerced into doing other men’s dirty work for them. There was nothing glorious or honourable about it anywhere.

There are two ways to get a man to do your dirty work for you. The first is to force him, the second is to trick him.

New Zealand’s involvement in World War One had at first been a voluntary affair, but it became a matter of force on the 1st of August 1916 with the passing of the Military Service Act. In total, almost 20,000 Kiwi men were conscripted for military service, roughly 20% of the total who served. Some 3-4,000 of these men were killed in battle.

By the time World War Two rolled around, the propaganda of the Establishment had become a lot more sophisticated. This was thanks, in large part, to men such as Edward Bernays, who had studied the use of propaganda and how to make it more effective, and who had written about it in books such as Propaganda. So they knew how to use the apparatus of mass media to convince men to join the Army.

This meant that the Establishment media could simply pump out enough stories about how the Germans bayonetted babies, and how they were trying to take over the world, and how Hitler was a unique evil that demanded a unique response, and enough people would believe it so that they didn’t need to conscript anyone any more. Men would simply volunteer to fight.

Fred raised me so as to never fall for the propaganda. Never to believe the politician, never to believe the media. Because, at the end of the day, the real enemy is always behind you. Your real enemy is not the opposition soldier but the one who raised the company, battalion or Army that you are now a member of. He’s the real enemy because the opposition soldier is, in the final analysis, only protecting himself from you.

Once, after I had been studying some military history, I remarked to him about conscription. Sure, I knew that the reasons behind the Vietnam War and the Gulf War were equally as false as for all the other wars. I could be smart enough to know that the television was lying to me about the need for me to participate in the next war, but if enough people my age were also aware of this, what would stop them going back to conscription?

What would I do if a conscription officer came to my house?

His reply was simple, and borne of the bravery that comes from having to face combat: “Shoot the bastard.”

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

Understanding the Honk Meme

There’s a new meme making waves in cyberspace. Based on the original Pepe the green frog meme, this new form adds a multicoloured clown wig, a red clown nose, a novelty bow tie and a eerie, distant smile. The meme is normally presented with the word ‘Honk’ or similar. This essay explains the honk meme.

The original Pepe meme is how an entire subculture has found a manner of expression. This bland-looking rubber-lipped frog has come to stand for an entire generation of everymen, his various expressions of rage, fear, anger and bliss the way that generation signals emotions in Internet groups. Many threads on Internet message boards start with a picture of Pepe, and these images portray an incredibly broad range of sentiments.

Pepe represents the travails of a generation that finds itself doing much worse than its parents did. The Millennials are discovering that their standard of living is lower than the generation before it, and much lower than that of the Boomers. Studies show that wage workers in Western countries have lost most of their house-buying power over the last few decades, and it looks set to get worse.

So Pepe’s new appearance, in the form of the Honkster, signals a dark turn in the collective mindset of the young.

Essentially, the idea is that we now live in Clown World, where nothing makes any sense any more. Our society is no longer a real society, where people care for each other on account of belonging to a wider kin group, but a parody of one, in which the old have all the wealth and power and aspire to suck as much life out of the younger generations as possible. We’ve strayed so far from our founding principles that we’ve lost our moral compass.

The sheer ridiculousness of so much of everyday life, it is reasoned, can only be explained with the idea that the normal timeline of Planet Earth deviated from its previous course at some unknown point in the recent past, and entered this place called Clown World. According to this theory, the Planet Earth is now in a different dimension of reality to the one it was in up until a few years ago. Therefore, the ordinary laws of psychology, sociology and political science no longer apply.

In Clown World, the clowns are in charge. This is nowhere more easily understood than by observing the total absence of qualifications among our ruling classes. Donald Trump in America, Theresa May in Britain, Justin Trudeau in Canada and Jacinda Ardern in New Zealand all appear uniquely hopeless. They blunder clumsily from one slapstick mishap to the next, and they appear intent on making the world into as big a circus as possible.

In Clown World, there is no longer cause to feel any hope. The world has failed. Not only has it failed, but it’s failed so badly that it seems like it was really just a joke the whole time. Nothing this absurd could possibly have been taken seriously by so many people, and therefore the only rational thing to do is to throw one’s head back in laughter as the clowns make honking noises.

The slack smile of the Honkster is not the smile of joy. It’s not even the sardonic smile of a generation that knows their parents traded away their inheritance for a pittance. It is the drugged smile of oxycontin, anti-depressants and anti-psychotics, pharmaceuticals being the only way to cope the fact that our world is a brave new one, in which people’s suffering has been medicated away to reduce their propensity to rebellion.

In this context, it has been said by an anonymous wit that “The world ends not with a bang, and not with a whimper, but with a honk.”

The honk is the look on the face of the Green Party supporter when she is gang raped by the same refugees she voted to open the borders for.

The honk is the sound the key makes in the lock when it turns to jail a man for criticising Police inaction in the face of reports of Islamic rape gangs operating in their area.

The honk is the cry of helplessness of a hundred million young people all over the West, drawn out so long that it has taken on a different character entirely, morphing from despair into a demented humour.

Realistically, this honk ought to be a terrifying sound. The discordant honking is the fanfare of a generation that has not only lost hope, but which has also lost meaning. In Clown World, it makes no sense to hope for anything, because there is no relationship between hoping for things and getting them. One cannot set one’s will to a goal and achieve it here, because nothing makes sense. The whole world is against one.

As the economic situation worsens, the face of the Honkster might be replaced with something less humourous. The bitterness inherent in the Clown World meme, and the nihilism it reveals, suggests an unstable and unpredictable environment. The Honk meme might be a sign that the social fabric is starting to tear.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

Banning The Great Replacement Manifesto Violates The NZ Bill of Rights Act

In the wake of the Christchurch mosque shootings, the country has been forced to endure the Great New Zealand Chimpout. This has involved everyone losing their minds, and over-reacting in ways that they may later come to regret. One of these over-reactions was to ban Branton Tarrant’s Great Replacement Manifesto, an action which was – as this article will show – a violation of the basic rights of New Zealanders.

The idea of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act is ostensibly to “affirm, protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms in New Zealand”. Supposedly based on the American model of inherent human rights, the NZ Bill of Rights Act is said to guarantee the rights of Kiwis and delineate areas in which the Government cannot take freedoms away.

However, the New Zealand Government has just violated this. In deciding to ban the possession of a copy of Tarrant’s manifesto, the Government violated Section 14 of the NZ Bill of Rights Act, which states:

14 Freedom of expression

Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, and impart information and opinions of any kind in any form.

This states, perfectly clearly, that New Zealanders have the right to seek the Great Replacement Manifesto, to receive the Great Replacement Manifesto, and to impart (share) the Great Replacement Manifesto. Consequently, the actions of the New Zealand Government to ban this document are illegal, and are a violation of the human rights of New Zealanders.

So why did they do this?

The Government doesn’t want anyone becoming aware of its failures. Like the psychopathic narcissists they are, politicians are incapable of admitting that they are ever wrong. Therefore, they are incapable of admitting what every working-class Kiwi already knows: that mass immigration has greatly enriched the already wealthy, at the expense of the already poor.

What they really, really don’t want is other working-class people realising that the demographic trajectory of New Zealand appears to be taking them on a path towards Brazil, and then South Africa, and then Haiti. Because, if they do realise this, then the Government either has to take action to prevent it (which will put them offside with their masters in banking and industry), or risk more mass shootings as the position of the working class continues to decline.

Much better to kick the can down the road, and just try not to talk about it, like we did with drug law reform, euthanasia law reform, climate change etc. Otherwise, someone has to point out that the emperor has no clothes. The fear that the charade might soon be over has led to a state of panic among New Zealand’s ruling class.

This atmosphere of panic, coupled with the unusually large number of weaklings in the highest reaches of Government, is why there has been an over-reaction like this. Most New Zealanders are still running around like headless chickens, and in their submission have accepted that the Government can take away any rights it sees fit.

Moreover, there’s a set precedent that the Government can violate the Bill of Rights Act and no-one cares. As a previous article here has pointed out, psychiatrists already violate the Bill of Rights Act by forcing medical treatment on people who have explicitly withdrawn their consent. This has even gone as far as electroshock treatment, but only alt-media sources like VJM Publishing are interested in taking up the issue.

What needs to happen is twofold. The Government first needs to quietly make Tarrant’s manifesto legal for people to read. Second, it needs to address the concerns raised in the manifesto in a more honest and respectful manner than just screaming about “white supremacism”. After all, the bulk of the concerns about the effects of mass Third World immigration are held just as strongly by Maoris as by white people.

If the indigenous people of New Zealand don’t want to be replaced by overseas sources of cheap labour, then this has to be acknowledged and addressed. If they believe that maintaining some level of ethnic homogeneity is better than full globohomo, then this has to be acknowledged and addressed. If they believe that the past conduct of certain ethnic and religious groups is so poor that we would be better off keeping those groups out of the country, this too needs to be acknowledged and addressed.

An honest conversation with the New Zealand working class has been needed since the imposition of neoliberalism. True courage, and true leadership, would see it happen soon. The New Zealand Government has to speak honestly to the people about their vision for the nation. It cannot end suffering by banning information and sending the Police to harass any Kiwi who speaks freely.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

The Basics of VPN Use, And Why Every Kiwi Needs to Know Them

The aftermath of the Christchurch mosque shooting showed that the New Zealand Government is willing to give away all of our freedoms in its blind panic to clamp down on everything. We Kiwis are going to have to learn how to fight Internet censorship and how to share information despite a Government committed to banning free discussion. This article discusses the basics of VPN use.

‘VPN’ stands for Virtual Private Network. It serves to extend a private network across a public one, so that you virtually access a private network somewhere else in the world. Essentially, a computer somewhere else surfs the Internet on your behalf, and then sends the data directly to your computer. The point of this is primarily to circumvent government censorship and corporate geo-restrictions.

It’s like the diplomatic black bag of internet traffic – the Government can’t snoop in on it while its in transit and choose to block it.

VPNs are very popular in totalitarian countries such as China, because they allow their users to access websites that the government doesn’t wish them to access. As any reader of 1984 could tell you, the prime objective of any government is to stay in power, by whatever means necessary. One of the primary ways this can be achieved is by controlling information and discourse, so that rebellious ideas cannot flourish in the minds of the populace.

As Joseph Stalin put it: “Ideas are more dangerous than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas?”

In the wake of the Christchurch mosque shootings, the New Zealand Government has taken a sharply totalitarian turn. They seem to have decided, without securing the consent of the people or even making an announcement, that it’s okay for them to censor whatever website they see fit, for any reason (or even none). Although they will not admit it, this is a totalitarian action that breaches fundamental human rights. For this reason, we citizens are forced to take counter measures.

When a country such as New Zealand tries to block the free flow of information to its citizens, those citizens have to turn to grey- or black-market solutions such as VPNs. Using a VPN will allow a person to access almost any website that the New Zealand Government may have decreed verboten, for the reason that the Great Firewall of New Zealand will consider the web traffic to be something else.

The Opera browser comes with a built-in VPN, which is probably the easiest way to get started for anyone new to the idea. The simplest way to get started is to just download and install the Opera browser (the download page can be found with a simple web search). If you then open that browser, you can see the Opera symbol up in the top left corner. Clicking on this will open a drop-down menu, on which you can select ‘Settings’ near the bottom.

This will take you to a separate Settings page, where you have a number of options. By default, you will come to the Basic panel. Towards the top-left corner of the screen, underneath the word ‘Settings’ you should be able to see the words ‘Basic’ and ‘Advanced’. ‘Advanced’ is a drop-down menu, itself consisting of three options: ‘Privacy & security’, ‘Features’ and ‘Browser’.

If you click on ‘Features’, a number of options will appear in the centre panel. At the top of these is one called ‘VPN’. Underneath this is the option to ‘Enable VPN’. From here, enabling the browser VPN is a simple matter of hitting the radio switch to the right.

Note that this may make your browsing a bit slower, because the VPN is an extra step between you and your data. However, this is a minor inconvenience, and may be your only easy option if you want to access forbidden websites.

Some people might say at this point “But the Government, in its omnibeneficence, only banned the really evil sites where hate speech flourished and I didn’t want to go there anyway.” Fair enough – but the Government could ban anything else in the future, and so you might as well learn how to circumvent that now while you still can.

Ask yourself, do you really believe that the Government is going to stop with 8chan and Zero Hedge? The Government probably regrets that the Internet ever came to exist. They would gladly switch to having a North Korea-style government news service with all alternatives banned if they thought they could get away with it.

So what we can expect is more of what David Icke calls the “Totalitarian Tiptoe”, in which the Government bans an ever-increasing number of websites, taking advantage of moral panics to do so. Because the Government’s appetite for power and control is unlimited, Kiwis ought to get to know the basics of VPN use immediately.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda VII

This reading carries on from here.

The seventh chapter of Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘Women’s Activities And Propaganda’.

Bernays is comfortable stating, in 1928, that women “have achieved a legal equality with men”. This doesn’t mean that their activities are the same – it simply means that their vote is of equal worth. This makes them particularly important to understand from a propaganda perspective.

He points out that women don’t have to occupy high positions of political power in order to have a strong political influence. It doesn’t matter that women are not taken as seriously as men in positions of high leadership, because they lead women’s organisations with great numbers of members, and the women leading them have a heavy influence on how their members vote.

Bernays considers the women’s suffrage campaign (which had won victory in America shortly before he wrote this book) to be a good example of the power of propaganda to bring societal changes. He credits the use of propaganda by women’s organisations for increased social welfare and alcohol prohibition. Many female propagandists were trained either by the suffragette movement itself or by the Government during World War One.

These clubs can hold events that draw large numbers of people, so if a popular enough event can be held, it will result in great numbers of people being influenced. Bernays is especially taken with the idea of such clubs sponsoring art or literary competitions. Such events can generate enormous amounts of goodwill.

Bernays is optimistic that an increased voice for women can help mould the world into a better place for all of us. He believes that the entrance of women into politics will allow them to focus on areas that men had previously neglected or were not interested in. This is primarily achieved by the introduction of new ideas or methods.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda VI

This reading carries on from here.

The sixth chapter of Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘Propaganda and Political Leadership’. Having elaborated upon the basics, Bernays now turns to what this book is best known for.

The chapter opens with an almost Machiavellian statement of anti-democracy. “No serious sociologist any longer believes that the voice of the people expresses any divine or specially wise and lofty idea.” The leader, then, has an obligation to use propaganda to induce the people to go in the right direction.

Curiously for 1928, Bernays is in a position to lament the apathy that already existed in the American voting population of the time. He presages the coming of Adolf Hitler when he states that this apathy only exists because of the failure of any political leader to capture the imagination of the public (this might be because propaganda has been used to destroy political communication).

Voter apathy is here blamed on the inability of politicians to dramatise themselves and their platforms in terms that have real meaning to the public. This cannot be achieved by a politician who merely follows the public whim. Given the strictures of democracy, “The only means by which the born leader can lead is the expert use of propaganda”.

Political campaigns ought to be planned and conducted as professionally and as meticulously as any advertising campaign of a large company. To this end, they would do well to be honestly funded. Bernays decries the “little black bag” method of funding, on account of that it lowers the prestige of politics.

A clever political campaign will outline, from the beginning, specifically which emotions it intends to appeal to. It will figure out exactly who it intends to appeal to, how to reach those people, and the areas in which multiple target groups have aligned interests.

Politicians, as leaders, ought to be creators of circumstances, not victims of them. In this, they have to be clever. The old-fashioned approach is to assault voting resistance head-on, through argumentation. The new approach is to arrange things so that such a conclusion seems dramatic and self-evident.

The best thing is to agitate the public into a sense of anxiety beforehand, so that when the politician speaks it is as if they are providing the answer to a desperate question. Bernays expresses a strong conviction that untrue propaganda will never drive out the honest, because the untrue propaganda will become weakened by growing public awareness of it.

Viewed from ninety years later, it seems that Bernays was altogether too naive and trusting. He wasn’t wrong when he says that the question of whether the newspaper shapes public opinion or public opinion shapes the newspaper is a bit of both. However, he didn’t appear to have anticipated that those who control the apparatus of propaganda would choose to pump it out ever more shamelessly, nor that mass media would see us soaked in propaganda 24/7.

A real leader ought to be able to use propaganda to get the people to follow them, rather than them follow the whims of the people. Again, Bernays emphasises that understanding the target audience is crucial: “The whole basis of successful propaganda is to have an objective and then to endeavor to arrive at it through an exact knowledge of the public and modifying circumstances to manipulate and sway that public.”

Government can be considered the “continuous administrative organ of the people”. To this end, an understanding of propaganda among its workers is vital for the sake of clear and accurate communication. Bernays prefers to describe this as education rather than propagandising. Perhaps the difference was more distinct in the 1920s.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda V

This reading carries on from here.

The fifth chapter of Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘Business and the Public’.

Businesses have realised that their interactions with the public are not limited to selling their product. They also have to keep on side with that public, otherwise the latter will pass laws restricting the operational freedom of that business. This need to stay onside with the moral fashions of the public has created the public relations industry.

Incredibly for 1928, Bernays is already talking about the fact that it is no longer demand that causes goods to be supplied to the market. He is aware even then that demand is something that is created, and that this is economically necessary in an age of mass production owing to the size of the capital investment necessary to get started. This is entirely different to even a century beforehand.

It has meant that psychology is now necessary in order to conduct business. The minds of the market, both as individuals and as collectives, must be understood. The vast reach of mass media only makes this more important. “Business must express itself and its entire corporate existence so that the public will understand and accept it.”

A company must think hard about the impression that it creates on other people. This means that businesses have to think about things like the dress of their staff. Much of this sounds routine for 2019, so it must be remembered this book was written in 1928.

The propagandist’s work can be divided into two major groups: “continuous interpretation” and “dramatisation by highspotting”. The former is a kind of micromanagement of the public mind in all minor matters, whereas the latter attempts to create a striking and lasting impression. The appropriate method to use can only be determined after a thorough study of the needs of the client.

Bernays writes of his conviction that “as big business becomes bigger the need for expert manipulation of its innumerable contacts with the public will become greater.” Critical to this is finding common interests between the good or service to be sold and the public interest. This search can have an almost infinite number of dimensions. He emphasises against that the goodwill of the public is necessary for any success, in particular stock floats.

Competition is now so intense that almost every decision made by the consumer is someone’s interest. Even the choice of what to eat for breakfast impacts a large number of corporate interests, all of who want to sell their product. Bernays jokes that this might lead to people becoming fat out of a fear that manufacturers will go bankrupt if people don’t eat enough – bizarrely ironic considering our obesity struggles 90 years later.

Bernays finishes this chapter writing about the amusement industry, which has its roots in carnivals and “medicine shows”. They were the ones who taught business and industry about propaganda. Ultimately, propaganda is a dynamic industry that responds to changing trends, and therefore “Modern business must have its finger continuously on the public pulse”.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda IV


This reading carries on from here.

The fourth chapter of Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘The Psychology of Public Relations’.

The study of mass psychology made people understand the possibility of the invisible government. We learned that the group has qualities that are distinct from the qualities of individuals. Bernays poses the question here: “is it not possible for us to control and regiment the masses according to our will without them knowing it?”

Bernays says it is possible, with certain limitations owing to the fact that psychological science is not well developed (it’s worth noting here, again, that this book was written in 1928). Propaganda is a human science and can therefore, like economics and sociology, never be exact.

Bernays again makes the point that if you can influence the leaders, you also influence the groups that they influence. Man’s gregarious nature will make him feel that he is part of a herd, and part of this herd psychology is to allow the group to make its imprints on him. Bernays gives the example of the man who buys railroad shares because something has caused him to associate that company with good feelings.

The group mind doesn’t really think, as such. Rather, it has emotions and raw animal impulses. Its first impulse is to follow a trusted leader. In this sense, we can see that the group mind is very primitive. But when a leader is not on hand and “the herd must think for itself”, it tends to do so in the form of simple cliches, whether in word or image form.

The truth is that men are seldom aware of what actually motivates their actions. They believe themselves to be making rational and dispassionate decisions, when in reality they are influenced by crude egotistical and biological desires. Freud was one of those who made people aware of how many of our desires and behaviours are really just expression of suppressed instincts. A man buys a car for status, not for locomotion.

The successful propagandist must understand people’s true motives, and therefore cannot be content with the reasons people give for why they do things. Human desires are “the steam which makes the human machine work”, and only by understanding these can the propagandist control society.

Old propaganda used what Bernays calls “reaction psychology”, in which people are more or less told what to buy. The new propaganda is more subtle. Instead of advertising bacon, the propagandist convinces doctors to tell their patients to eat it. Instead of breaking down sales resistance by direct attack, propagandists now act to remove it through subtle means.

If the propagandist can make it the group custom to buy a particular good, then he has succeeded. The old propaganda asked people to buy that good; the new propaganda convinces people to go into the salesroom and ask to be sold that good.

The leaders who lend their authority to a propagandist’s endeavour will only do so if it accords with their own interests. For this reason, the propagandist must endeavour to understand the aspirations of as many people as possible. There will be cases in which the interests of many different groups overlap, and in that there is power.

The new propaganda is based on “enlightened self-interest”. Bernays concludes this chapter by saying that this, and the three previous chapters, were devoted to giving a general outline of how propaganda works, and in the remainder of the book he will look at specifics.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda III

This reading carries on from here.

The third chapter of Edward Bernays’s Propaganda is called ‘The New Propagandists’. Here, Bernays gets to the task of who it is that molds public opinion. “Who are the men who, without us realising it, give us our ideas?”

Bernays admits openly that these molders of public opinion decide for us who we admire and who we despise, and what we think about all manner of political issues. They decide our fashions, our speech, and even what jokes we feel like we’re allowed to make. They decide the shape of everything in our societies – but who are they?

These people include all of the top politicians, all of the leaders of the biggest industries, all of the leaders of the largest cultural organisations, the editors of the largest newspapers and magazines, the heads of the various industry groups, the chancellors of the most prominent universities and the main religious figures. Even so, most of these people, in their turn, get their ideas from elsewhere.

In some cases, it’s clear who the wirepullers are. In most cases, it isn’t. But these people control the destinies of millions. The degree to which a small number of people influence a large number of public figures is generally not appreciated. This number will, however, always be small on account of the great expense involved in manipulating the machinery of propaganda to form public opinion.

This has given rise to the new (in 1928) profession of professional propagandist, which has been euphemised as “public relations counsel”. This role is necessary because all governments, no matter what their type, depend on the acquiescence of the people. Bernays here gives us the maxim “Government is only government by virtue of public acquiescence.” Even commercial enterprises need public approval to succeed.

The propagandist is not simply an advertiser. Although he might use letters to the editor, radio, lectures, magazines and more, his work does not duplicate that of the advertiser. His first business is to make sure that his client’s product is something that the public can be brought to accept. The propagandist’s next job is to analyse the public, and how to approach the leaders of the various groups within it.

Bernays contends that, in the age of mass media, corporations found it necessary to give the appearance of conforming to the public’s sense of decency and honesty. As a result, and much like governments, corporations found propagandists necessary in order to get anything done.

The ideal of the propagandist’s profession is making the client understand what the public wants, and making the public understand the objectives of the client. Propagandising can therein be likened to a form of diplomacy. Bernays labours at length the point that the propagandist does not work to hoodwink the public, and lists the ethical considerations of the profession.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.

VJMP Reads: Edward Bernays’s Propaganda II

This reading carries on from here.

The second chapter of Propaganda is called ‘The New Propaganda’. Here, Bernays elucidates some of the differences between the original approach to propaganda that arose with the advent of mass media, and the “new” approach that was developed after the application of mass psychology techniques to making propaganda more effective.

The industrial revolution has made kings much less powerful than they once were, relative to the masses. It spread economic power, and, with that, political power. The old democrats used to believe that it was possible to educate everyone up to the level where they could participate in rulership – in reality, the average person falls well short of what is required.

Propaganda fills this gap, serving as the means by which the minority can still rule the majority. “Propaganda is the executive arm of the invisible Government.” The education of the common man, instead of teaching him to think freely, only conditioned him to become receptive to propaganda. Now his mind is receptive to propaganda of all sorts.

Using examples from a daily newspaper, Bernays explains how propaganda works in the mainstream media. Anything stated as true by an authority, such as the State Department, is taken as such. Here Bernays gives us a definition of propaganda: “Modern propaganda is a consistent, enduring effort to create or shape events to influence the relations of the public to an enterprise, idea or group.”

In practice, very little is done nowadays without some kind of propaganda campaign alongside it. Propaganda regiments the public mind every bit as much as the Army regiments the bodies of its soldiers. A group so regimented can be every bit as effective as an army.

Today, the approval of the public is necessary for any large undertaking. Therefore, propaganda is necessary for any large undertaking. Formerly, rulers could set the course of history simply by doing things. Today, the masses have control, so propaganda is needed to wrest that control back. As a consequence, propaganda is here to stay.

It was World War I, and the astonishing success of propaganda in that war to manipulate public opinion, that made people aware of what could be done. This was the first time that not only a multimedia approach was made to encourage people to support the national endeavour, but also key men were brought on board in a massive range of industries.

The new propaganda doesn’t just target the individual, but takes into consideration the structure of society and the way that information spreads through it. This is now a feature of society, because new proposals for reform must be clearly articulated before they will be influential. No-one can get anything done anymore without propaganda.

Bernays concludes this chapter by noting that “In the active proselytizing minorities in whom selfish interests and public interests coincide lie the progress and development of America.” The world is controlled by the small number of men that control propaganda, who make the rest of us think as they will, and society only progresses when their will is in accord with the collective good.

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If you enjoyed reading this essay, you can get a compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2018 from Amazon for Kindle or Amazon for CreateSpace (for international readers), or TradeMe (for Kiwis). A compilation of the Best VJMP Essays and Articles of 2017 is also available.